EDITOR’S NOTE: What follows is a heavily excerpted and slightly edited transcript of three lectures given by the great Orthodox scholar John S. Romanides in 1981 at Holy Cross Seminary in the Patriarch Athenagoras Memorial Lecture series.
This article deals with the fundamental difference between Orthodoxy and Western Christianity, mainly Roman Catholicism. Readers will be surprised to learn that the division between "East" and "West" was actually more of a political division, caused by the ambitions of the Franks and other Germanic tribes, than a "Theological" question.
Professor John Romanides of the University of Thessalonike challenges the common views regarding the causes for the Schism of the Church in the "Roman world," and offers his own provocative interpretation of the historical background of this tragedy in the history of the Christian Church.
Far from seeing basic differences in the "Roman world," which led to alienation between the East and West, Romanides argues for the existence of "national, cultural and even linguistic unity between East (Byzantine) and West Romans"; that is, until the intrusion and takeover of the West Romans (the Roman Catholics) by the Franks (German tribes).
The Christian Activist extends its thanks to Holy Cross Press for permission to reprint these lectures, which they first published in 1981.
European and American histories treat the alienation between Eastern and Western Christian Churches as though it were inevitable, because of an alleged separation of the Roman Empire itself into "East" and "West," because of alleged linguistic and cultural differences, and because of an alleged difference between the legal West and the speculative East.1 Evidence strongly suggests that such attempts to explain the separation between East and West are conditioned by prejudices inherited from the cultural tradition of the Franks, and from the centuries-old propaganda of the Frankish (Germanic dominated) Papacy.
The evidence points clearly to the national, cultural, and even linguistic unity between East and West Romans which survived to the time when the Roman popes were replaced by Franks. Had the Franks not taken over the Papacy, it is very probable that the local synod of the Church of Rome (with the pope as president), elected according to the 769 election decree approved by the Eighth Ecumenical Synod in 879, would have survived, and that there would not have been any significant difference between the papacy and the other four Roman (Orthodox) Patriarchates.
However, things did not turn out that way. The Papacy was alienated from the (Orthodox) East by the Franks, so we now are faced with the history of that alienation when we contemplate the reunion of divided Christians. By the eighth century, we meet for the first time the beginnings of a split in Christianity. In West European sources we find a separation between a "Greek East" and a "Latin West." In Roman sources this same separation constitutes a schism between Franks (a confederation of Germanic Teutonic peoples living on the lower banks of the Rhine who by the sixth century AD conquered most of France, the low countries and what is now Germany. ed) and Romans. One detects in both terminologies an ethnic or racial basis for the schism which may be more profound and important for descriptive analysis than the doctrinal claims of either side.
The Roman Empire was conquered in three stages: by Germanic tribes (the Franks) who became known as "Latin Christianity," by Muslim Arabs, and finally, by Muslim Turks. In contrast to this, the ecclesiastical administration of the Roman Empire disappeared in stages from West Europe, but has survived up to modern times in the "East Roman Empire" the Orthodox Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
The reason for this is that the Germanic - Frankish conquerors of the West Romans (who became known as the "Roman Catholic Church.") used the Church to suppress the Roman nation, whereas under Islam the East Roman nation, the Orthodox Church, survived by means of the Orthodox Church. In each instance of conquest, the bishops became the ethnarchs of the conquered Romans and administered Roman law on behalf of the rulers. As long as the bishops were Roman, the unity of the Roman Church was preserved, in spite of theological conflicts.
Roman Revolutions and the Rise of Frankish Feudalism and Doctrine
The Franks applied their policy of destroying the unity between the Romans under their rule and the "East Romans," the Orthodox, under the rule of Constantinople.They played one Roman party against the other, took neither side, and finally condemned both the iconoclasts and the Seventh Ecumenical Synod (786/7) at their own Council of Frankfurt in 794,
In the time of Pippin of Herestal (687-715) and Charles Martel (715-741), many of the Franks who replaced Roman bishops were military leaders who, accordingto Saint Boniface, "shed the blood of Christians like that of the pagans."2
The Imperial CoronationCharlemagne
An unsuccessful attempt was made on the life of (the Roman) Pope Leo III (795-816), the successor of Hadrian. Pope Leo was then accused of immoral conduct. Charlemagne took a personal and active interest in the investigations which caused Leo to be brought to him in Paderborn. Leo was sent back to Rome, followed by Charlemagne, who continued the investigations. The Frankish king required finally that Leo swear his innocence on the Bible, which he did on December 23, (800). Two days later Leo crowned Charlemagne "Emperor of the Romans." Charlemagne had arranged to get the title "Emperor" in exchange for Leo’s exoneration. Charlemagne caused the filioque (the new line in the Creed that said that the Holy Spirit, "proceeds from the Father and the Son," instead of the original which read, "proceeds from the Father, to be added to the Frankish Creed, without consulting the pope. When the controversy over this addition broke out in Jerusalem, Charlemagne convoked the Council of Aachen (809) and decreed that this addition was a dogma necessary for salvation. With this fait accomplit under his belt, he tried to pressure Pope Leo III into accepting it.3
Pope Leo rejected the filioque not only as an addition to the Creed, but also as doctrine, claiming that the Fathers left it out of the Creed neither out of ignorance, nor out of negligence, nor out of oversight, but on purpose and by divine inspiration. What Leo said to the Franks but in diplomatic terms, was that the addition of the filioque to the Creed is a heresy.
The so-called split between East and West was, in reality, the importation into Old Rome of the schism provoked by Charlemagne and carried there by the Franks and Germans who took over the papacy.
The Bible and Tradition
A basic characteristic of the Frankish (Germanic-Latin) scholastic method, mislead by Augustinian Platonism and Thomistic Aristotelianism had been its naive confidence in the objective existence of things rationally speculated about. By following Augustine, the Franks and the "Latin" Roman Catholic Church substituted the patristic concern for spiritual observation, (which they had found firmly established in Gaul when they first conquered the area) with a Germanic fascination for metaphysics
In contrast to the Franks the Fathers of the Orthodox Church did not understand theology as a theoretical or speculative science, but as a positive science in all respects. This is why the patristic understanding of Biblical inspiration is similar to the inspiration of writings in the field of the positive sciences.
Scientific manuals are inspired by the observations of specialists. For example, the astronomer records what he observes by means of the instruments at his disposal. Because of his training in the use of his instruments, he is inspired by the heavenly bodies, and sees things invisible to the naked eye. The same is true of all the positive sciences. However, books about science can never replace scientific observations. These writings are not the observations themselves, but about these observations.
The same is true of the Orthodox understanding of the Bible and the writings of the Fathers. Neither the Bible nor the writings of the Fathers are revelation or the word of God. They are about revelation and about the word of God.
Revelation is the appearance of God to the prophets, apostles, and saints. The Bible and the writings of the Fathers are about these appearances, but not the appearances themselves. This is why it is the prophet, apostle, and saint who sees God, and not those who simply read about their experiences of glorification. It is obvious that neither a book about glorification nor one who reads such a book can ever replace the prophet, apostle, or saint who has the experience of glorification.
This is the heart of the Orthodox understanding of tradition and apostolic succession which sets it apart from the "Latin" (in other words, Frankish-Germanic) and Protestant traditions, both of which stem from the theology of the Franks.
Following Augustine, the Franks identified revelation with the Bible and believed that Christ gave to the Church the Holy Spirit as a guide to its correct understanding. This would be similar to claiming that the books about biology were revealed by microbes and cells without the biologists having seen them with the microscope, and that these same microbes and cells inspire future teachers to correctly understand these books without the use of the microscope!
Historians have noted the naivite of the Frankish religious mind which was shocked by the first claims for the primacy of observation over rational analysis. Even Galileo’s telescopes could not shake this confidence. However, several centuries before Galileo, the Franks had been shocked by the East Roman (Orthodox) claim, hurled by Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), of the primacy of experience and observation over "reason" in theology.
Instruments, Observation, Concepts, and Language
The universe has turned out to be a much greater mystery to man than anyone was ever able to imagine. Indications are strong that it will yet prove to be an even greater mystery than man today can yet imagine. In the light of this, one thinks humorously of the (Latin) bishops who could not grasp the reality, let alone the magnitude, of what they saw through Galileo’s telescope. But the magnitude of Frankish naivite becomes even greater when one realizes that these same church leaders who could not understand the meaning of a simple observation were claiming knowledge of God’s essence and nature.
The Latin tradition could not understand the significance of an instrument by which the prophets, apostles, and saints had reached glorification.
Similar to today’s sciences, Orthodox theology also depends on an instrument which is not identified with reason or the intellect. The Biblical name for this is the heart. Christ says, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."4
The heart is not normally clean, i.e., it does not normally function properly. Like the lens of a telescope or microscope, it must be polished so that light may pass through and allow man to focus his spiritual vision on things not visible to the naked eye.
In time, some Fathers gave the name nous (nou'~) to the faculty of the soul which operates within the heart when restored to normal capacity, and reserved the names logos (lovgo") and dianoia (diavnoia)for the intellect and reason, or for what we today would call the brain. In order to avoid confusion, we use the terms noetic faculty and noetic prayer to designate the activity of the nou'~ in the heart called noerav eujchv.
The heart, and not the brain, is the area in which the theologian is formed. Theology includes the intellect as all sciences do, but it is in the heart that the intellect and all of man observes and experiences the rule of God. One of the basic differences between science and Orthodox theology is that man has his heart or noetic faculty by nature, whereas he himself has created his instruments of scientific observation.
A second basic difference is the following: By means of his instruments, and the energy radiated by and/or upon what he observes, the scientist sees things which he can describe with words, even though at times inadequately. These words are symbols of accumulated human experience, and understood by those with the same or similar experience.
In contrast to this, the experience of glorification is to see God who has no similarity whatsoever to anything created, not even to the intellect or to the angels. God is literally unique and can in no way be described by comparison with anything that any creature may be, know or imagine. No aspect about God can be expressed in a concept or collection of concepts.
It is for this reason that in Orthodoxy positive statements about God are counterbalanced by negative statements, not in order to purify the positive ones of their imperfections, but in order to make clear that God is in no way similar to the concepts conveyed by words, since God is above every name and concept ascribed to Him. Although God created the universe, which continues to depend on Him, God and the universe do not belong to one category of truth. Truths concerning creation cannot apply to God, nor can the truth of God be applied to creation.
Diagnosis and Therapy
Let us turn our attention to those aspects of differences between Roman and Frankish theologies which have had a strong impact on the development of differences in the doctrine of the Church. The basic differences may be listed under diagnosis of spiritual ills and their therapy.
According to the Orthodox Church, the "East Romans," Glorification is the vision of God in which the equality of all men and the absolute value of each man is experienced. God loves all men equally and indiscriminately, regardless of even their moral status. God loves with the same love, both the saint and the devil. To teach otherwise, as Augustine and the Franks did, would be adequate proof that they did not have the slightest idea of what glorification was.
According to the Orthodox, God multiplies and divides himself in His uncreated energies undividedly among divided things, so that He is both present by act and absent by nature to each individual creature and everywhere present and absent at the same time. This is the fundamental mystery of the presence of God to His creatures and shows that universals do not exist in God and are, therefore, not part of the state of illumination as in the Augustinian (Frankish Latin) tradition.
According to the Orthodox, God himself is both heaven and hell, reward and punishment. All men have been created to see God unceasingly in His uncreated glory. Whether God will be for each man heav-en or hell, reward or punishment, depends on man’s re-sponse to God’s love and on man’s transformation from the state of selfish and self-centered love, to Godlike love which does not seek its own ends.
One can see how the Frankish understanding of heaven and hell poetically described by Dante, John Milton, and James Joyce are so foreign to the Orthodox tradition (but in keeping with the "Latin" tradition).
According to the Orthodox, since all men will see God, no religion can claim for itself the power to send people either to heaven or to hell. This means that true spiritual fathers prepare their spiritual charges so that vision of God’s glory will be heaven, and not hell, reward, and not punishment. The primary purpose of Orthodox Christianity then, is to prepare its members for an experience which every human being will sooner or later have.
While the brain (according to the Orthodox) is the center of human adaptation to the environment, the noetic faculty in the heart is the primary organ for communion with God. The fall of man or the state of inherited sin is: a) the failure of the noetic faculty to function properly, or to function at all; b) its confusion with the functions of the brain and the body in general; and c) its resulting enslavement to the environment.
Each individual experiences the fall of his own noetic faculty. One can see why the Augustinian "Latin," Frankish) understanding of the fall of man as an inherited guilt for the sin of Adam and Eve is not, and cannot, be accepted by the Orthodox tradition.
There are two known memory systems built into living beings, 1) cell memory which determines the function and development of the individual in relation to itself, and 2) brain cell memory which determines the function of the individual in relation to its environment. In addition to this, the patristic tradition is aware of the existence in human beings of a now normally non-functioning or sub-functioning memory in the heart, which when put into action via noetic prayer, includes unceasing memory of God and, therefore, the normalization of all other relations.
When the noetic faculty is not functioning properly, man is enslaved to fear and anxiety and his relations to others are essentially utilitarian. Thus, the root cause of all abnormal relations between God and man and among men is that fallen man, i.e., man with a malfunctioning noetic faculty, uses God, his fellow man, and nature for his own understanding of security and happiness. Man outside of glorification imagines the existence of god or gods which are psychological projections of his need for security and happiness.
That all men have this noetic faculty in the heart also means that all are in direct relation to God at various levels, depending on how much the individual personality resists enslavement to his physical and social surroundings and allows himself to be directed by God. Every individual is sustained by the uncreated glory of God and is the dwelling place of this uncreated creative and sustaining light, which is called the rule, power, grace, etc. of God. Human reaction to this direct relation or communion with God can range from the hardening of the heart, i.e., the snuffing out of the spark of grace, to the experience of glorification attained to by the prophets, apostles, and saints.
This means that all men are equal in possession of the noetic faculty, but not in quality or degree of function. It is important to note the clear distinction between spirituality, which is rooted primarily in the heart’s noetic faculty, and intellectuality, which is rooted in the brain. Thus:
1) A person with little intellectual attainments can rise to the highest level of noetic perfection.
2) On the other hand, a man of the highest intellectual attainments can fall to the lowest level of noetic imperfection.
3) One may also reach both the highest intellectual attainments and noetic perfection.
Or 4) one may be of meager intellectual accomplishment with a hardening of the heart.
Saint Basil the Great writes that "the in-dwelling of God is this—to have God established within ourself by means of memory. We thus become temples of God, when the continuity of memory is not interrupted by earthly cares, nor the noetic faculty shaken by unexpected sufferings, but escaping from all things this (noetic faculty) friend of God retires to God, driving out the passions which tempt it to incontinence and abides in the practices which lead to virtues."5
Saint Gregory the Theologian points out that "we ought to remember God even more often than we draw out breath; and if it suffices to say this, we ought to do nothing else…or, to use Moses’ words, whether a man lie asleep, or rise up, or walk by the way, or whatever else he is doing, he should also have this impressed in his memory for purity."6
Saint Gregory insists that to theologize "is permitted only to those who have passed examinations and have reached theoria, and who have been previously purified in soul and body, or at least are being purified."7
This state of theoria is two fold or has two stages: a) unceasing memory of God and b) glorification, the latter being a gift which God gives to His friends according to their needs and the needs of others. During this latter state of glorification, unceasing noetic prayer is interrupted since it is replaced by a vision of the glory of God in Christ. The normal functions of the body, such as sleeping, eating, drinking, and digestion are suspended. In other respects, the intellect and the body function normally. One does not lose consciousness, as happens in the ecstatic mystical experiences of non-Orthodox Christian and pagan religions. One is fully aware and conversant with his environment and those around him, except that he sees everything and everyone saturated by the uncreated glory of God, which is neither light nor darkness, and nowhere and everywhere at the same time. This state may be of short, medium, or long duration. In the case of Moses it lasted for forty days and forty nights. The faces of those in this state of glorification give off an imposing radiance, like that of the face of Moses, and after they die, their bodies become holy relics. These relics give off a strange sweet smell, which at times can become strong. In many cases, these relics remain intact in a good state of preservation, without having been embalmed. They are completely stiff from head to toe, light, dry, and with no signs of putrefaction.
There is no metaphysical criterion for distinguishing between good and bad people. It is much more correct to distinguish between ill and more healthy persons. The sick ones are those whose noetic faculty is either not functioning, or functioning poorly, and the healthier ones are those whose noetic faculty is being cleansed and illumined.
These levels are incorporated into the very structure of the four Gospels and the liturgical life of the Church. The Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke reflect the pre-baptismal catechism for cleansing the heart, and the Gospel of John reflects the post-baptismal catechism which leads to theoria by way of the stage of illumination. Christ himself is the spiritual Father who led the apostles, as He had done with Moses and the prophets, to glorification by means of purification and illumination.8
One can summarize these three stages of (Orthodox) perfection as a) that of the slave who performs the commandments because of fear of seeing God as a consuming fire, b) that of the hireling whose motive is the reward of seeing God as glory, and c) that of the friends of God whose noetic faculty is completely free, whose love has become selfless end because of this, are willing to be damned for the salvation of their fellow man, as in the cases of Moses and Paul.
The Franks deliberately provoked doctrinal differences, between the East Romans, (the Orthodox) and the West Romans, (the Roman Catholics) in order to break the national and ecclesiastical unity of the original Roman nation. Because of this deliberate policy, the filioque question took on irreparable dimensions. However, the identity of the West Romans and of the East Romans as one indivisible nation, faithful to the Roman Christian faith promulgated at the Ecumenical Synods held in the Eastern part of the Empire, is completely lost to the historians of Germanic background, since the East Romans are consistently called "Greeks" and "Byzantines."
Thus, the historical myth has been created that the West Roman Fathers of the Church, the Franks, Lombards, Burgundians, Normans, etc., are one continuous and historically unbroken "Latin" Christendom, clearly distinguished and different from a mythical "Greek" Christendom. The frame of reference accepted without reservation by Western historians for so many centuries has been "the Greek East and the Latin West."
A much more accurate understanding of history presenting the filioque controversy in its true historical perspective is based on the Roman viewpoint of church history, to be found in (both Latin and Greek) Roman sources, as well as in Syriac, Ethiopian, Arabic, and Turkish sources. All these point to a distinction between Frankish and Roman Christendom, and not between a mythical "Latin" and "Greek" Christendom. Among the Romans, Latin and Greek are national languages, not nations. The Fathers are neither "Latins" nor "Greeks" but Romans.
Having this historical background in mind, one can then appreciate the significance of certain historical and theological factors underlying the so-called filioque controversy. This controversy was essentially a continuation of the Germanic or Frankish effort to control not only the Roman nation, now transformed into the serfs of Frankish feudalism, but also the rest of the Roman nation and Empire.
The historical appearance of Frankish theology coincides with the beginnings of the filioque controversy. Since the Roman Fathers of the Church took a strong position on this issue, as they did on the question of Icons (also condemned initially by the Franks), the Franks automatically terminated the patristic period of theology with Saint John of Damascus in the East (after they accepted the Seventh Ecumenical Synod) and Isidore of Seville in the West. After this, the Roman Empire no longer can produce Fathers of the Church because the Romans rejected the Frankish filioque. In doing so, the Romans withdrew themselves from the central trunk of Christianity (as the Franks understood things) which now becomes identical with Frankish Christianity, especially after the East Franks expelled the Romans from the Papacy and took it over themselves.
From the Roman viewpoint, however, the Roman tradition of the Fathers was not only not terminated in the eighth century, but continued a vigorous existence in the East, as well as within Arab-occupied areas. Present research is now leading to the conclusion that the Roman Patristic period extended right into the period of Ottoman rule, after the fall of Constantinople New Rome. This means that the Eighth Ecumenical Synod (879), under Photios, the so-called Palamite Synods of the fourteenth century, and the Synods of the Roman Patriarchates during the Ottoman period, are all a continuation and an integral part of the history of Patristic theology. It is also a continuation of the Roman Christian tradition, minus the Patriarchate of Old Rome, which, since 1009 after having been captured, ceased to be Roman and became a Frankish institution.
Without ever mentioning the Franks, the Eighth Ecumenical Synod of 879 condemned those who either added or subtracted from the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, and also those who had not yet accepted the Seventh Ecumenical Synod.
It must first be emphasized that this is the first instance in history wherein an Ecumenical Synod condemned heretics without naming them. In this case the heretics are clearly the universally feared Franks. It is always claimed by Protestant, Anglican, and Latin scholars that since the time of Hadrian I or Leo III, through the period of John VIII, the Papacy opposed the filioque only as an addition to the Creed, but never as doctrine or theological opinion. Thus, it is claimed that John VIII accepted the Eighth Ecumenical Synod’s condemnation of the addition to the Creed and not of the filioque as a teaching.
However, both Photios and John VIII’s letter to Photios testify to this pope’s condemnation of the filioque as doctrine also. Yet the filioque could not be publicly condemned as heresy by the Church of Old Rome. Why? Simply because the Franks were militarily in control of papal Romania, and as illiterate barbarians were capable of any kind of criminal act against the Roman clergy and populace. The Franks were a dangerous presence in papal Romania and had to be handled with great care and tact.
Yet the Romans in the West could never support the introduction of the filioque into the Creed, not because they did not want to displease the "Greeks," but because this would be heresy. The West Romans knew very well that the term procession in the Creed was introduced as a parallel to generation, and that both meant causal relation to the Father, and not energy or mission.
This interpretation of the filioque is the consistent position of the Roman popes, and clearly so in the case of Leo III. The minutes of the conversation held in 810 between the three apocrisari of Charlemagne and Pope Leo III, kept by the Frankish monk Smaragdus, bear out this consistency in papal policy.9 Leo accepts the teaching of the Fathers, quoted by the Franks, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, as taught by Augustine and Ambrose. However, the filioque must not be added to the Creed as was done by the Franks, who got permission to sing the Creed from Leo but not to add to the Creed.
When one reads these minutes, remembering the Franks were a dangerous presence in Rome capable of acting in a most cruel and barbarous manner if provoked, then one comes to the clear realization that Pope Leo III is actually telling the Franks in clear and diplomatic terms that the filioque in the Creed is a heresy.
In the light of the above, we do not have the situation usually presented by European, American, and Russian historians in which the filioque is an integral part of so--called "Latin" Christendom with a "Greek" Christendom in opposition on the pretext of its introduction into the Creed. (The addition to the Creed was supposedly opposed by the popes not doctrinally, but only as addition in order not to offend the "Greeks.") What we do have is a united West and East Roman Christian nation in opposition to an upstart group of Germanic races who began teaching the Romans before they really learned anything themselves. Of course, German teachers could be very convincing on questions of dogma, only by holding a knife to the throat. Otherwise, especially in the time of imposing the filioque, the theologians of the new Germanic theology were better than their noble peers, only because they could read and write and had, perhaps, memorized Augustine.
The Theological Background
At the foundation of the filioque controversy between Franks and Romans lie essential differences in theological method, theological subject matter, spirituality, and, therefore, also in the understanding of the very nature of doctrine and of the development of the language or of terms in which doctrine is expressed.
When reading through Smaragdus’ minutes of the meeting between Charlemagne’s emissaries and Pope Leo III, one is struck not only by the fact that the Franks had so audaciously added the filioque to the Creed and made it into a dogma, but also by the haughty manner in which they so authoritatively announced that the filioque was necessary for salvation, and that it was an improvement of an already good, but not complete, doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit. This was in answer to Leo’s strong hint at Frankish audacity. Leo, in turn, warned that when one attempts to improve what is good he should first be sure that in trying to improve he is not corrupting. He emphasizes that he cannot put himself in a position higher than the Fathers of the Synods, who did not omit the filioque out of oversight or ignorance, but by divine inspiration.
The question arises, "Where in the world did the newly born Frankish theological tradition get the idea that the filioque is an improvement of the Creed, and that it was omitted from creedal expression because of oversight or ignorance on the part of the Fathers of the Synod?" Since Augustine is the only representative of Roman theology that the Franks were more or less fully acquainted with, one must turn to the Bishop of Hippo for a possible answer. I think I have found the answer in Saint Augustine’s lecture delivered to the assembly of African bishops in 393. Augustine had been asked to deliver a lecture on the Creed, which he did. Later he reworked the lecture and published it. I do not see why the Creed expounded is not that of Nicaea-Constantinople, since the outline of Augustine’s discourse and the Creed are the same. Twelve years had passed since its acceptance by the Second Ecumenical Synod and, if ever, this was the opportune time for assembled bishops to learn of the new, official, imperially approved creed. The bishops certainly knew their own local Creed and did not require lessons on that. In any case, Augustine makes three basic blunders in this discourse and died many years later without ever realizing his mistakes, which were to lead the Franks and the whole of their Germanic Latin Christendom into a repetition of those same mistakes.
In his De Fide et Symbolo,10 Augustine makes an unbelievable naive and inaccurate statement: "With respect to the Holy Spirit, however, there has not been, on the part of learned and distinguished investigators of the Scriptures, a fuller careful enough discussion of the subject to make it possible for us to obtain an intelligent conception of what also constitutes His special individuality (proprium)."
Everyone at the Second Ecumenical Synod knew well that this question was settled once and for all by the use in the Creed of the word procession as meaning the manner of existence of the Holy Spirit from the Father which constitutes His special individuality. Thus, the Father is unbegotten, i.e. derives His existence from no one. The Son is from the Father by generation. The Holy Spirit is from the Father, not by generation, but by procession. The Father is cause, the Son and the Spirit are caused. The difference between the ones caused is the one is caused by generation, and the other by procession, and not by generation.
In any case, Augustine spent many years trying to solve this non-existent problem concerning the individuality of the Holy Spirit and, because of another set of mistakes in his understanding of revelation and theological method, came up with the filioque.
It is no wonder that the Franks, believing that Augustine had solved a theological problem which the other Roman Fathers had supposedly failed to grapple with and solve came to the conclusion that they uncovered a theologian far superior to all other Fathers. In him the Franks had a theologian who improved upon the teaching of the Second Ecumenical Synod.
A second set of blunders made by Augustine in this same discourse is that he identified the Holy Spirit with the divinity "which the Greeks designate qeovth~" and explained that this is the "love between the Father and the Son."11
The third and most disturbing blunder in Augustine’s approach to the question before us is that his theological method is not only pure speculation on what one accepts by faith (for the purpose of intellectually understanding as much as one’s reason allows by either illumination or ecstatic intuition), but is a speculation which is transferred from the individual speculating believer to a speculating church, which, like an individual, understands the dogmas better with the passage of time.
Thus, the Church awaits a discussion about the Holy Spirit "Full enough or careful enough to make it possible for us to obtain an intelligent conception of what also constitutes His special individuality (proprium)."
The most amazing thing is the fact that Augustine begins with seeking out the individual properties of the Holy Spirit and immediately reduces Him to what is common to the Father and Son. However, in his later additions to his De Trinitate, he insists that the Holy Spirit is an individual substance of the Holy Trinity completely equal to the other two substances and possessing the same essence as we saw.
In any case, the Augustinian idea that the Church herself goes through a process of attaining a deeper and better understanding of her dogmas or teachings was made the very basis of the Frankish propaganda that the filioque is a deeper and better understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. Therefore, adding it to the Creed is an improvement upon the faith of the Romans who had allowed themselves to become lazy and slothful on such an important matter. This, of course, raises the whole question concerning the relationship between revelation and verbal and iconic or symbolic expressions of revelation.
For Augustine, there is no distinction between revelation and conceptual intuition of revelation. Whether revelation is given directly to human reason, or to human reason by means of creatures, or created symbols, it is always the human intellect itself which is being illumined or given vision to. The vision of God itself is an intellectual experience, even though above the powers of reason without appropriate grace.
In contrast to this Augustinian approach to language and concepts concerning God, we have the Patristic position expressed by Saint Gregory the Theologian against the Eunomians. Plato had claimed that it is difficuIt to conceive of God but, to define Him in words is an impossibility. Saint Gregory disagrees with this and emphasizes that "it is impossible to express Him, and yet, more impossible to conceive Him. For that which may be conceived may perhaps be made clear by language, if not fairly well, at any rate imperfectly..."12
The most important element in Patristic epistemology is that the partial knowability of the divine actions or energies, and the absolute and radical unknowability and incommunicability of the divine essence is not a result of philosophical or theological speculation, as it is in Paul of Samosata, Arianism, and Nestorianism, but of the personal experience of revelation or participation in the uncreated glory of God by means of vision or theoria. Saint Gregory defines a theologian as one who has reached this theoria by means of purification and illumination, and not by means of dialectical speculation. Thus, the authority for Christian truth is not the written words of the Bible, which cannot in themselves either express God or convey an adequate concept concerning God, but rather the individual apostle, prophet, or saint who is glorified in God.
Because the Franks, following Augustine, neither understood the Patristic position on this subject, nor were they willing from the heights of their majestic feudal nobility to listen to "Greeks" explain these distinctions, they went about raiding the Patristic texts. They took passages out of context in order to prove that for all the Fathers, as supposedly in the case of Augustine, the fact that the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit means that the Holy Spirit derives His existence from the Father and Son.
The Fathers always claimed that generation and procession are what distinguish the Son from the Holy Spirit. Since the Son is the only begotten Son of God, procession is different from generation. Otherwise, we would have two Sons, in which case there is no only begotten Son. For the Fathers this was both a biblical fact and a mystery to be treated with due respect. To ask what generation and procession are is as ridiculous as asking what the divine essence is. Only energies of God may be known, and then only in so far as the creature can receive.
In contrast to this, Augustine set out to explain what generation is. He identified generation with what the other Roman Fathers called actions or energies of God which are common to the Holy Trinity. Thus, procession ended up being these same energies. The difference between the Son and the Spirit was that the Son is from one and the Holy Spirit from two.
When he began his De Trinitate,13 Augustine promised that he would explain why the Son and the Holy Spirit are not brothers. After completing his twelfth book, his friends stole and published this work in an unfinished and uncorrected form. In Book 15.45, Augustine admits that he cannot explain why the Holy Spirit is not a Son of the Father and brother of the Logos, and proposes that we will learn this in the next life.
In his Rectractationun, Augustine explains how he intended to exiain what had happened in another writing and not publish his De Trinitate himself. However, his friends prevailed upon him, and he simply corrected the books as much as he could and finished the work with which he was not really satisfied.
What is most remarkable is that the spiritual and cultural descendants of the Franks are still claiming that Augustine is the authority par excellence on the Patristic doctrine of the Holy Trinity!
Whereas no Greek-speaking Roman Father ever used the expression that the Holy Spirit proceeds (ejkporeuvetai) from the Father and Son, both Ambrose and Augustine use this expression. Since Ambrose was so dependent on such Greek-speaking experts as Basil the Great and Didymos the Blind, particularly his work on the Holy Spirit, one would expect that he would follow Eastern usage.
It seems, however, that at the time of the death of Ambrose, before the Second Ecumenical Synod, the term procession had been adopted by Didymos as the hypostatic individuality of the Holy Spirit. It had not been used by Saint Basil (only in his letter 38 he seems to be using procession as Gregory the Theologian) or by Saint Gregory of Nyssa before the Second Ecumenical Synod. Of the Cappadocian Fathers, only Saint Gregory the Theologian uses very clearly in his Theological Orations what became the final formulation of the Church on the matter at the Second Ecumenical Synod.
Evidently, because Augustine transformed the doctrine of the Holy Trinity into a speculative exercise of philosophical acumen, the simple, schematic and biblical nature of the doctrine in the East Roman (Orthodox) tradition had been lost sight of by those stemming from the scholastic tradition.
Thus, the history of the doctrine of the Trinity has been reduced to searching out the development of such concepts and terminology as three persons or hypostases, one essence, homoousios, personal or hypostatic properties, one divinity, etc.
The summary of the Patristic theological method is perhaps sufficient to indicate the nonspeculative method by which the Fathers theologize and interpret the Bible. The method is simple and-the result is schematic. Stated simply and arithmetically, the whole doctrine of the Trinity may be broken down into two simple statements as far as the filioque is concerned. (1) What is common in the Holy Trinity is common to and identical in all three persons or hypostases. (2) What is hypostatic, or hypostatic property, or manner of existence is individual, and belongs only to one person or hypostasis of the Holy Trinity. Thus, we have tav koinav and tav ajkoinwvnhta, what is common and what is incommunically individual.
Having this in mind, one realizes why the West and East Romans did not take the Frankish filioque very seriously as a theological position, especially as one which was supposed to improve upon the Creed of the Second Ecumenical Synod.
However, the Romans had to take the Franks themselves seriously, because they backed up their fantastic theological claims with an unbelievable self-confidence and with a sharp sword. What they lacked in historical insight, they made up with "nobility" of descent, and a strong will to back up their arguments with muscle and steel.
In any case, it may be useful in terminating this section to emphasize the simplicity of the Roman position and the humor with which the filioque was confronted. We may recapture this Roman humor about the Latin filioque with two syllogistic jokes from the Great Photios which may explain some of the fury of Frankish reaction against him.
"Everything, therefore, which is seen and spoken of in the all-holy and consubstantial and coessential Trinity, is either common to all, or belongs to one only of the three: but the projection (probolhv) of the Spirit, is neither common, nor, as they say, does it belong to any one of them alone (may propitiation be upon us, and the blasphemy turned upon their heads). Therefore, the projection of the Spirit is not at all in the lifegiving and all-perfect Trinity."14
In other words, the Holy Spirit must then derive His existence outside of the Holy Trinity since everything in the Trinity is common to all or belongs to one only.
"For otherwise, if all things common to the Father and the Son, are in any case common to the Spirit, …and the procession from them is common to the Father and the Son, the Spirit therefore will then proceed from himself: and He will be principle (ajrchv) of himself, and both cause and caused: a thing which even the myths of the Greeks never fabricated."15
Keeping in mind the fact that the Fathers always began their thoughts about the Holy Trinity from their personal experience of the Angel of the Lord and Great Counselor made man and Christ, one only then understands the problematic underlying the Arian/Eunomian crisis, i.e., whether this concrete person derives His existence from the essence or hypostasis of the Father or from non-being by the will of the Father. Had the tradition understood the method of theologizing about God as Augustine did, there would never have been an Arian or Eunomian heresy. Those who reach glorification (theosis) know by this experience that whatever has its existence from non-being by the will of God is a creature, and whoever and whatever is not from non-being, but from the Father is uncreated. Between the created and the uncreated, there is no similarity whatsoever.*** Before the Cappadocian Fathers gave their weight to the distinction between the three divine hypostases (uJpostavsei~) and the one divine essence, many Orthodox Church leaders avoided speaking either about one essence or one hypostasis since this smacked of Sabellian and Samosatene Monarchianism. Many preferred to speak about the Son as deriving His existence from the Father’s essence and as being like the Father in essence (oJmoiouvsio~) Saint Athanasios explains that this is exactly what is meant by (oJmoouvsio~)—coessential.16 It is clear that the Orthodox were not searching for a common faith but rather for common terminology and common concepts to express their common experience in the Body of Christ.
Equally important is the fact that the Cappadocians lent their weight to the distinction between the Father as cause (ai[tio~) and the Son and the Holy Spirit as caused (aijtiatav). Coupled with the manners of existence (trovpoi uJpavrxew~) of generation and procession, these terms mean that the Father causes the existence of the Son by generation and of the Holy Spirit by procession and not by generation. Of course, the Father being from no one (ejx oujdenov~) derives His existence neither from himself nor from another. Actually, Saint Basil pokes fun at Eunomios for being the first to say such an obvious thing and thereby manifest his frivolousness and wordiness. Furthermore, neither the essence nor the natural energy of the Father have a cause or manner of existence. The Father possesses them by His very nature and communicates them to the Son in order that they possess them by nature likewise. Thus, the manner by which the uncaused Father exists, and by which the Son and the Holy Spirit receive their existence from the Father, are not to be confused with the Father’s communicating His essence and energy to the Son and the Holy Spirit. It would, indeed, be strange to speak about the Father as causing the existence of His own essence and energy along with the hypostases of the Son and the Holy Spirit.
It also must be emphasized that for the Fathers who composed the creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople neither generation nor procession mean energy or action. This was the position of the heretics condemned. The Arians claimed that the Son is the product of the will of God. The Eunomians supported a more original but bizarre position that the uncreated energy of the Father is identical with His essence, that the Son is the product of a simple created energy of God, that the Holy Spirit is the product of a single energy of the Son, and that each created species is the product of a special energy of the Holy Spirit, there being as many created energies as there are species. Otherwise, if the Holy Spirit has only one created energy, then there would be only one species of things in creation. It is in the light of these heresies also that one must appreciate that generation and procession in the Creed in no way mean energy or action.
However, when the Franks began raiding the Fathers for arguments to support their addition to the Creed, they picked up the categories of manner of existence, cause and caused, and identified these with Augustine’s generation and procession, thus transforming the old Western Orthodox filioque into their heretical one. This confusion is nowhere so clear than during the debates at the Council of Florence where the Franks used the terms cause and caused as identical with their generation and procession, and supported their claim that the Father and the Son are one cause of the procession of the Holy Spirit. Thus, they became completely confused over Maximos who explains that for the West of his time, the Son is not the cause of the existence of the Holy Spirit, so that in this sense the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Father. That Anastasios the Librarian repeats this is ample evidence of the confusion of both the Franks and their spiritual and theological descendants.*** For the Fathers, no name or concept gives any understanding of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Saint Gregory the Theologian, e.g., is clear on this as we saw. He ridicules his opponents with a characteristic taunt: "Do tell me what is the unbegotteness of the Father, and I will explain to you the physiology of the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit, and we shall both of us be frenzy-stricken for prying into the mystery of God’’17 Names and concepts about God give to those who reach theoria understanding not of the mystery, but of the dogma and its purpose. In the experience of glorification, knowledge about God, along with prayer, prophecy and faith are abolished. Only love remains (1 Cor. 13, 8-13; 14,1). The mystery remains, and will always remain, even when one sees God in Christ face to face and is known by God as Paul was (I Cor. 13.12).
The Significance of the Filioque Question
Smaragdus records how the emissaries of Charlemagne complained that Pope Leo III was making an issue of only four syllables. Of course, four syllables are not many. Nevertheless, their implications are such that Latin or Frankish Christendom embarked on a history of theology and ecclesiastical practice which may have been quite different had the Franks paid attention to the "Greeks."
I will indicate some of the implications of the presuppositions of the filioque issue which present problems today.
1 ) Even a superficial study of today’s histories of dogma and biblical scholarship reveals the peculiar fact that Protestant, Anglican, Papal, and some Orthodox theologians accept the First and Second Ecumenical Synods only formally. This is so because there is at least an identity of teaching between Orthodox and Arians, which does not exist between Orthodox and Latins, about the real appearances of the Logos to the Old Testament prophets and the identity of this Logos with the Logos made flesh in the New Testament. This, as we saw, was the agreed foundation of debate for the determination of whether the Logos seen by the prophets is created or uncreated. This identification of the Logos in the Old Testament is the very basis of the teachings of all the Roman Ecumenical Synods.
We emphasize that the East Roman (Orthodox) Fathers never abandoned this reading of the Old Testament theophanies. This is the teaching of all the West Roman Fathers, with the single exception of Augustine, who, confused as usual over what the Fathers teach, rejects as blasphemous the idea that the prophets could have seen the Logos with their bodily eyes and, indeed, in fire, darkness, cloud, etc.
The Arians and Eunomians had used, as the Gnostics before them, the visibility of the Logos to the prophets to prove that He was a lower being than God and a creature. Augustine agrees with the Arians and Eunomians that the prophets saw a created Angel, created fire, cloud, light, darkness, etc., but he argues against them that none of these was the Logos himself, but symbols by means of which God or the whole Trinity is seen and heard.
Augustine had no patience with the teaching that the Angel of the Lord, the fire, the glory, the cloud, and the Pentecostal tongues of fire, were verbal symbols of the uncreated realities immediately communicated with by the prophets and apostles, since for him this would mean that all this language pointed to a vision of the divine substance. For the bishop of Hippo this vision is identical to the whole of what is uncreated, and could be seen only by a Neoplatonic type ecstasy of the soul, out of the body within the sphere of timeless and motionless eternity transcending all discursive reasoning. Since this is not what he found in the Bible, the visions therein described are not verbal symbols of real visions of God, but of creatures symbolizing eternal realities. The created verbal symbols of the Bible became created objective symbols. In other words, words which symbolized uncreated energies like fire, etc., became objectively real created fires, clouds, tongues, etc.
2) This failure of Augustine to distinguish between the divine essence and its natural energies (of which some are communicated to the friends of God), led to a very peculiar reading of the Bible, wherein creatures or symbols come into existence in order to convey a divine message, and then pass out of existence. Thus, the Bible becomes full of unbelievable miracles and a text dictated by God.
3) Besides this, the biblical concept of heaven and hell also becomes distorted, since the eternal fires of hell and the outer darkness become creatures also whereas, they are the uncreated glory of God as seen by those who refuse to love. Thus, one ends up with the three-story universe problem, with God in a place, etc., necessitating a demythologizing of the Bible in order to salvage whatever one can of a quaint Christian tradition for modern man. However, it is not the Bible itself which needs demythologizing, but the Augustinian Franco-Latin tradition and the caricature which it passed off in the West as "Greek" Patristic theology.
4) By not taking the above-mentioned foundations of Roman Patristic theology of the Ecumenical Synods seriously as the key to interpreting the Bible, modern biblical scholars have applied presuppositions latent in Augustine with such methodical consistency that they have destroyed the unity and identity of the Old and New Testaments, and have allowed themselves to be swayed by Judaic interpretations of the Old Testament rejected by Christ himself. Thus, instead of dealing with the concrete person of the Angel of God, Lord of Glory, Angel of Great Council, Wisdom of God and identifying Him with the Logos made flesh and Christ, and accepting this as the doctrine of the Trinity, most, if not all, Western scholars have ended up identifying Christ only with Old Testament Messiahship, and equating the doctrine of the Trinity with the development of extra Biblical Trinitarian terminology within what is really not a Patristic framework, but an Augustinian one. Thus, the so-called "Greek" Fathers are still read in the light of Augustine, with the Russians after Peter Mogila joining in.
5) Another most devastating result of the Augustinian presuppositions of the filioque is the destruction of the prophetic and apostolic understanding of grace and its replacement with the whole system of created graces distributed in Latin Christendom by the hocus pocus of the clergy.
For the Bible and the Fathers, grace is the uncreated glory and rule (basileiva) of God seen by the prophets, apostles, and saints and participated in by the faithful followers of the prophets and the apostles. The source of this glory and rule is the Father who, in begetting the Logos, and projecting the Spirit, communicates this glory and rule so that the Son and the Spirit are also by nature one source of grace with the Father. This uncreated grace and rule (basileiva) is participated in by the faithful according to their preparedness for reception, and is seen by the friends of God who have become gods by grace.
Because the Frankish filioque presupposes the identity of uncreated divine essence and energy, and because participation in the divine essence is impossible, the Latin tradition was led automatically into accepting communicated grace as created, leading to its objectification and magical priestly manipulation.
On the other hand, the reduction by Augustine of this revealed glory and rule (basileiva) to the status of a creature has misled modern biblical scholars into the endless discussions concerning the coming of the "Kingdom" (basileiva should rather be rule) without realizing its identity with the uncreated glory and grace of God.19
In the patristic tradition, all dogma or truth is experienced in glorification. The final form of glorification is that of Pentecost, in which the apostles were led by the Spirit into all the truth, as promised by Christ at the Last Supper. Since Pentecost, every incident of the glorification of a saint, (in other words, of a saint having a vision of God’s uncreated glory in Christ as its source), is an extension of Pentecost at various levels of intensity.
This experience includes all of man, but at the same time transcends all of man, including man’s intellect. Thus, the experience remains a mystery to the intellect, and cannot be conveyed intellectually to another. Thus, language can point to, but cannot convey, this experience. The spiritual father can guide a person to, but cannot produce, the experience which is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
When, therefore, the Fathers add terms to the biblical language concerning God and His relation to the world like hypostasis, ousia, physis, homoousios, etc., they are not doing this because they are improving current understanding as over against a former age. Pentecost cannot be improved upon. All they are doing is defending the Pentecostal experience which transcends words, in the language of their time, because a particular heresy leads away from, and not to, this experience, which means spiritual death to those led astray.
For the Fathers, authority is not only the Bible, but the Bible plus those glorified or divinized as the prophets and apostles. The Bible is not in itself either inspired or infallible. It becomes inspired and infallible within the communion of saints because they have the experience of divine glory described in the Bible.
The presuppositions of the Frankish ("Latin") filioque are not founded on this experience of glory. Anyone can claim to speak with authority and understanding. However, we Orthodox follow the Fathers and accept only those as authority who, like the apostles, have reached a degree of Pentecostal glorification.
Within this frame of reference, there can be no institutionalized or guaranteed form of infallibility, outside of the tradition of spirituality which leads to theoria, mentioned above, by St. Gregory the Theologian.
What is true of the Bible is true of the Synods, which, like the Bible, express in symbols that which transcends symbols and is known by means of those who have reached theoria. It is for this reason that the Synods appeal to the authority, not only of the Fathers in the Bible, but also to the Fathers of all ages, since the Fathers of all ages participate in the same truth which is God’s glory in Christ.
For this reason, Pope Leo III told the Franks in no uncertain terms that the Fathers left the filioque out of the Creed neither because of ignorance nor by omission, but by divine inspiration. However the implications of the Frankish filioque were not accepted by all Roman Christians in the Western Roman provinces conquered by Franco-Latin Christendom and its scholastic theology. Remnants of Roman biblical orthodoxy and piety have survived and all parts may one day be reassembled, as the full implications of the Patristic tradition make themselves known, and spirituality, as the basis of doctrine, becomes the center of our studies.
1. The European and Middle Eastern parts of the Roman Empire were carved out of areas which, among other linguistic elements, contained two bands, the Celtic and the Greek, which ran parallel to each other from the Atlantic to the Middle East. The Celtic band was north of the Greek band, except in Asia Minor, where Galatia had the Greek band to the east, the north, and the south. Northern Italy itself was part of the Celtic band and Southern Italy a part of the Greek band (here called Magna Graecia) which in the West covered Southern Spain, Gaul, and their Mediterranean islands. Due consideration should be given to the fact that both the Celtic and Greek bands were east and west of Roman Italy. The Romans first took over the Greek and Celtic parts of Italy and then the Greek and Celtic speaking peoples of the two bands. The Celtic band was almost completely Latinized, whereas the Greek band, not only remained intact, but was even expanded by the Roman policy of completing the Hellenization of the Eastern provinces initiated by the Macedonians. The reason why the Celtic band, but not the Greek band, was Latinized was that the Romans were themselves bilingual in fact and in sentiment, since in the time of their explosive expansion they spoke both Latin and Greek, with a strong preference for the latter. Thus, one is obliged to speak of both the Western and Eastern parts of European Romania in terms of a Latin North and a Greek South, but certainly not of a Latin West and a Greek East, which is a Frankish myth, fabricated for the propagandistic reasons described in Lecture I, which survives in text books until today. Indeed, the Galatians of Asia Minor were in the fourth century still speaking the same dialect as the Treveri of the province of Belgica in the Roman diocese of Gaul. (Albert Grenier, Les Gaulois [Paris, 1970], p. 115.) That the Latin West/Greek East division of Europe is a Frankish myth is still witnessed to today by some 25 million Romans in the Balkans, who speak Romance dialects, and by the Greek-speaking inhabitants of the Balkans and the Middle East, who call themselves Romans. It should be noted that it is very possible that the Galatians of Asia Minor still spoke the same language as the ancestors of the Waloons in the area of the Ardennes when the legate of Pope John XV, Abbot Leo, was at Mouzon pronouncing the condemnation of Gerbert d’Aurillac in 995
2. Migne, PL 89:744.
3. For a review of the historical and doctrinal aspects of this question, see J. S. Romanides, The Filioque, Anglican Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Discussions, St. Albans 1975—Moscow 1976 (Athens, 1978).
4. Matthew 5.8.
5. Epistle 2.
6. Theological Oration 1.5.
7. Ibid. 1.3.
8. On the relations between the Johanine and Synoptic gospel traditions see my study, "Justin Martyr and the Fourth Gospel," The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 4 (1958-59), pp. 115-39.
9. PL 102.971 ff. For interpretation of these minutes and related matters see my JH Dogmatikhv kaiv Sumbolikhv th`~ jOrqodovxou Kaqolikh`~ jEkklhsiva~, pp. 340-78.
12. Theological Orations, 2.4.
14. J. N. Karmiris, Tav Dogmatikav kaiv Sumbolikav Mnhmei`a th`~ jOrqodovxou Kaqolikh`~ jEkklhsiva~, Athens 1966, Vol. 1, p. 325.
15. Ibid, p. 324.
16. De Synodis, 41.
17. Theological Orations, 5.8.
18. Besides the works mentioned in footnotes above, see my study, "Justin Martyr and the Fourth Gospel," The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 4 (1958-59), 115-39.